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Hands-on early America for Howbert 5th-graders


ABOVE and BELOW: As part of a day-long immersion in Revolutionary War-era know-how, Howbert fifth-graders in the school gym take their best shot at early-American dances they'd just learned that day. Looking on appreciatively in the top photo at rear left is Sharon Guli of River Crossing (with the microphone), who'd taught the students the rudimentary steps to dances such as the Virginia Reel. Performing on the stage is a three-piece ensemble, the Grandview Victorian Orchestra. See additional photo on the Schools category page.
Westside Pioneer photos
       It might be hard to imagine modern elementary-schoolers learning to curtsy and bow, dance the Virginia Reel and even call adults “ma'am” or “sir”… not to mention enjoying doing so.
       But there they were the evening of May 2, for parents and the public to see, grinning and laughing as they sought to carry out the Revolutionary War-era social lessons they'd learned earlier that day, as Howbert Elementary's gym became for a couple of hours the site of a “Colonial Ball.”
       Close to 40 fifth-grade students, many of them dressed in early-American styles, were joined in the dances by similarly costumed school staffers (including Principal Deb Hawes). The Grandview Victorian Orchestra, a three-piece ensemble specializing in tunes from the past, performed on the stage, with the dances called by Sharon Guli of River Crossing.
       The event climaxed a school day with River Crossing, a Denver-area company that specializes in historic programs. The fifth-graders from Lori Janson's and Michelle Cramer's classes gained hands-on exposure to the etiquette, fashion, hunting practices, dances and general style of the Revolutionary War era.
       “The students loved it,” said Cyndy Tatum, Howbert's teacher-learning coach, who organized the day's activities. “It's stuff that kids don't get taught these days. And it made history come alive.”
       Colonial Day, as it was called, ties in with the current semester's fifth-grade unit on the Revolutionary War. Tatum has always valued that time, with its emphasis on liberty and people standing up for their rights, and she had immersed herself in it as a teacher through a three-year American history grant that ended last year.
       But the basic school curriculum tends to focus just on facts, and she's found that not all children become engaged. “I've had students come up to me, not having any understanding of the Declaration of Independence,” she said. “This [the Colonial Day] gives them a broader understanding.”
       She hopes to make the event an annual occasion for Howbert.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 5/8/14; Schools: Howbert Elementary School)

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